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Published: April 20th 2014
The Calm Before The Storm
This picture was taken on the evening of April 12th - little did we know what was to hit us the very next day..............
“The pizza delivery man just got jet washed”.
Normally such a statement from Angela would require some kind of explanation or response but, on this occasion, I didn’t bat an eyelid. At that moment, it made perfect sense and, besides, my attention was on a dozen other similar events happening around us and on avoiding a similar fate to that of the delivery man. For one crazy day it seemed we had been transported into a parallel world of limitless water, noise, colour, chaos and laughter. We were in Hua Hin and it was April 13th.
It turned out to be a day we will remember forever – it was Songkran!!
Ok, here’s the bit I can describe. Songkran is a three day festival to celebrate the Thai New Year and is famous for the throwing of water over others (absolutely everyone is considered a fair target except for monks and babies – pity that ;-). Ostensibly, this is done to wash away the bad things but really it seems just an excuse for great fun. Locals and tourists alike take to the streets with containers of water, elaborate water guns, buckets, hose pipes, you name it (even
"Lunch Is For Wimps"
The soakings never stop during Songkran - even when you're having your dinner.
the jet wash is utilised hence the Domino’s guy getting drenched). In addition, people carry small bowls of coloured powder mixed with water (and sometimes menthol) which is then smeared on the faces and bodies of passers-by as a blessing for the New Year.
What’s impossible to describe properly is the incredible friendly and fun atmosphere Songkran generates. We’d heard lots about it over the years and were delighted when we realised it coincided with our time in Thailand, meaning we could experience it for the first time. As the clock ticked over 9.00 am on the 13th music exploded all over town and we went out onto our hotel balcony to see what was going on. The first thing we witnessed was a packed Songthaew (public taxi truck) slow down to a crawl by the pavement. Its passengers were then absolutely saturated by 5 or 6 Thais each launching a bucket of water over them whilst shouting “Sawadee Pi Mai” – Happy New Year!! Everyone takes this in great spirit as not only is it an ancient custom but it’s also over 30 degrees here so a cooling shower is quite welcome.
Our walk into town later
Only Monks and Babies Are Exempt
Annoying really as this warning just made me want to target monks and babies even more.
that morning was unlike anything we’ve experienced before and we laughed so much it physically hurt. From toddlers through to pensioners, everyone is roadside and armed to the teeth with ways to dispense water at high velocity. Farangs are considered prime targets and, with hindsight, wearing a lurid, day-glo green t shirt wasn’t the wisest choice in terms of keeping a low profile. It was a good job we’d taken advice about putting camera, phones etc into separate plastic bags as, and this is an understatement, you get wet.
Very, very wet.
Once in Hua Hin centre, the atmosphere cranked up several notches - it was party time!! Ibiza arrived in Thailand as foam spewed everywhere and heavy drum and bass blasting from car stereos created impromptu dance floors in the middle of every street. Vehicles inched through the thronging masses with their occupants either getting or giving a drenching – usually both. Dripping wet policeman oversaw the fun with big smiles firmly planted on their brightly painted faces – like I said, only a very select few are exempt!
As the hot, humid evening arrived noise levels increased further with now well lubricated revellers partying like
It's A Good Job Thailand's Hot!
The constant drenchings help keep you cool in the 30 degree plus temperatures.
crazy on every corner. During the day volunteer groups had kindly handed out free drinking water and ice creams to keep you cool; now it was glasses of potent looking cocktails that were thrust at you by friendly, intoxicated locals. The atmosphere was getting wilder by the minute and eventually, absolutely exhausted by the intensity of the long day, we started the long walk back to the hotel.
This didn’t mean the soakings stopped though; if anything they increased as the heavy traffic crawled out of town at exactly the same pace we were walking. This allowed the kids on the open backs of vehicles to take really good aim and land sustained jets in your ear from their water pistols. Too knackered to dodge them or resist we just did what we’d done for the whole day – laughed!! I don’t like to admit this but we were relieved in a way that, due to (believe it or not!!) a water shortage here, songkran in Hua Hin was only a one day celebration. It’s three in the rest of the country and I’m not sure we could have coped with that!!
Hua Hin itself a wonderful place
Always Time For A Cold One
Taking a break from the madness to catch our breath. Even in a bar you're still a target - but at least you can sit down whilst getting hit.
and could be considered the Thai equivalent of Barcelona. There’s something about a city with a beach (it is, of course, the only thing Manchester is missing ;-) and the atmosphere is much cooler and relaxed than many other parts of Thailand. This is probably because it’s been a popular holiday destination for around a hundred years and hasn’t suffered from the uncontrolled tourism explosion many other resorts around the country have.
The Thai Royal family have a palace here and are currently “in residence” apparently, a fact backed up by the scary looking warships anchored just offshore to defend them. The Thais take their monarchy very seriously and “lese majeste” (insulting them) is a criminal offence punished with imprisonment. With this in mind, I’ll move on because, as previously mentioned in this blog, I’d rather watch Banged Up Abroad than appear in it.
The variety and quality of the cuisine here continues to amaze and delight us in equal measure. All manner of food is prepared along every street and even the humblest roadside stall produces wonderful, healthy fare. We had lunch on one of the pier restaurants here yesterday and, as ever, wanted to try new
Deep Fried Minced Catfish Salad
A lot, lot better than it sounds - honestly.
The variety and quality of the food in Thailand is truly amazing and all delicious. We've picked up some great cooking tips during our trip but won't be recreating this dish back at home.
dishes. Angela’s oyster salad was unbelievably fresh and tasty and I had a deep fried minced catfish salad which came with two or three other dishes to mix in and eat alongside. I promise both were significantly better than they sound but not the kind of thing we will be able to recreate when back in the UK!
They do like sugary things here though. Neither of us have a sweet tooth so we avoid the juice at breakfast completely and have to give strict instructions when we think there’s the slightest chance sugar may be added to anything. We ordered two cocktails the other day and both the whisky sour and dry martini we had (guess who had which ;-) were amongst the sweetest things we’ve ever tasted. Tins of Carnation milk (a Sunday treat when I was a kid) are used liberally, most successfully in the tiny, soft centred coconut macaroons cooked fresh and served piping hot by many of the street vendors – delicious!!
Our eight nights in here passed quickly and proved to be amazing fun. For a while after Songkran we subconsciously expected to get drenched every time we ventured out onto the
Tinned Carnation Milk
I've not seen this for years in the UK but it's very popular in Thailand still. This lady is making soft centred coconut macaroons with it here, 16 for 20 baht (40p) - delicious!!
streets but this soon passed. Our next leg sees us swap laid back, trendy Hua Hin for the complete and utter madness that is Bangkok – should be fun!!
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